Inside a rathskeller in New York’s Little Germany

In 1936, a man named Joe King opened a restaurant serving “moderately priced German dishes and imported beers”  in a German Renaissance Revival building on Third Avenue and 17th Street.


This was once the outskirts of New York’s enormous German immigrant enclave, Kleindeutschland. By the 1930s, Little Germany had mostly decamped to Yorkville (Luchow’s remained as well on 14th Street until the 1980s.)

But it would have been worth it to come down to this place in the old neighborhood. The beer steins, the lights, the tin ceiling, the piano installed for communal singalongs. . . . It closed in the 1960s, but I wish it were still around.


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11 Responses to “Inside a rathskeller in New York’s Little Germany”

  1. frank dicapua Says:

    I remember yorlville with the eoropean flovor it proveded a place and time never to be forgotten thank you

  2. Sean Munger Says:

    Fascinating. As I recall, wasn’t New York’s German community devastated by the General Slocum steamship disaster of 1904? Was that a factor in the geographic change of German neighborhoods in the city?

  3. wack60585 Says:

    Reblogged this on wack60585.

  4. elisabeth Says:

    Scheffel Hall is now a Pilates Studio owned by Sal Anthony. The beautiful stained glass dome above the main room was still visible a few years ago as was a historic statue in a corner. Most likely it all still there.

  5. J Says:

    I lived on 18th between 1st and 2nd Avenues from 1972 to 1985. During those years, the building housed Friday’s. The interior was much the same as the one in the photo but without the framed items, beer steins, etc. It was always dark and cozy inside. My Dad, who was born on the lower east side, told me it was a German rathskeller in his day. In fact, it was the first time I heard the word “rathskeller.” He pointed out the German words carved above the window and door.

  6. ephemeralnewyork Says:

    Thanks J. One question: do you mean Tuesdays? There was a restaurant in the space called Fat Tuesday’s in the 1980s, I believe.

  7. Sarah Says:


  8. Ronald Young Says:

    Just watched a “Naked City” ep shot partially there:

  9. R.. Kehy Says:

    Ah-hah ! While searching the Web for something, I came across the word ‘rathskeller’ which sparked recall of great times at Joe King’s, when 18 year olds from anywhere, could drink a brew or two in Manhattan. This was back in 1956-59 on Fri-Sat nights in the Fall, especially during Thanksgiving school breaks for get-to-gathers. This place was always packed and had a wait line out the door. Oh, reverie….. (may still have a glass mug in the attic)
    I think the postcard picture is of the downstairs room with a flat tin ceiling because the 1st floor contained similar furniture and decor but had an arched ceiling. Whatta place !!!

  10. Daniel Says:

    I have a mint condition Holiday magazine from May of 1955. There’s nothing closer to time travel than reading physical copies of magazines telling you what to do and where to go from a time before you were alive. Sam Boal (killed in his apartment by his own cigarette in 1964) wrote a tribute to 3rd avenue and the glory or beheld. Joe King’s is featured where college drink beer and eat hamburgers and carve their names and frats into the walls.

  11. The mystery of the mermaid on East 23rd Street | Ephemeral New York Says:

    […] Madison Square Garden. Maybe home to a German singing society? New York’s Little Germany, or Kleindutschland, extended from the East Village into the Gramercy area at the […]

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